Can I Give My Cat Blueberries?
Few fruits inspire awe and imagination quite like blueberries. Firstly, they boast mystical color-changing properties: sitting on their own, they’re blue; peeled, they become bright green; blended into a smoothie, they turn into a brilliant shade of purple worthy of royalty. They are sweet yet tart, they are easy to snack on, and they are one of the few natural foods that have been designed by nature as the perfect ‘ball’ for dinner table soccer. Second only to grapes, blueberries are the best candidate for a round of dinnertime sports.
Playing tabletop soccer with blueberries, however, has some associated risks. You may wind up with blueberries flying into your forehead. You will also likely wind up with blueberries rolling around on the floor. Floor blueberries have two foot-related risks (the first one being ruining your brand new white socks, and the second one being falling victim to the disgusting tactile experience of a blueberry squishing between your toes), but for pet owners, there is a third risk.
If there are blueberries on the floor, your cat is going to eat them. But is this okay, or does it warrant an emergency trip to the vet’s office? Can cats have blueberries?
Never fear: even though they may not like them, cats can eat blueberries. While grapes and raisins can have serious negative effects on your cat’s health, blueberries appear to be perfectly safe in small amounts. There is nothing in the skin or flesh of blueberries that could even potentially be poisonous to your cat, so even if for some reason Fluffy eats a whole basket of them, they probably will not need medical attention.
So, if blueberries are safe, are there any benefits to feeding them to your cat? Though cats are obligate carnivores, which means they often struggle to absorb nutrition from plant sources like berries, there may be a couple of nutrients in blueberries that can boost their overall health. Since cats have little need for the natural sugars in blueberries, the biggest potential benefits are fiber, Vitamin C, and other antioxidants.
Dietary fiber in the cat diet is hotly debated among pet owners, but if yours is an indoor cat whose diet consists primarily of kibble, adding a little plant fiber to their diet may be a good idea. Dietary fiber is a zero-calorie ‘nutrient’—neither humans nor cats can digest it, so it passes through their system without providing any calories or micronutrients. While it is true that cats living in the wild would consume only a very small amount of plant fiber (they’re pure carnivores), they would consume other forms of indigestible material. In a carnivorous diet consisting of whole prey animals, cats would get a fair amount of indigestible ‘animal fiber’ in the form of cartilage, fur, tendons, and ligaments.
Since most domesticated cats do not eat a substantial amount of whole prey animals, plant material may be a suitable, second-best substitute. A small amount of fiber is necessary for maintaining digestive health. It does this by adding more bulk and more water into the intestinal tract. Soluble fiber soaks up water like a sponge, which can reduce constipation by ‘lubricating’ the intestinal tract. Soluble fiber can help with diarrhea, too, by absorbing excess water in the colon. The other type of fiber, insoluble fiber, serves one purpose: it adds bulk to stool. This makes for fuller, more frequent bowel movements, which can reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Things to Keep in Mind
Blueberries are also loaded with Vitamin C and other antioxidants. Though cats can produce their own Vitamin C, they may benefit from its antioxidant properties. The antioxidants found in berries are great at fighting aging, disease and cell damage. They do this by destroying free radicals, which are highly charged particles that can cause the cell damage that often results in diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. These same chemicals are great for reducing inflammation all over the body, which may ease symptoms of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
In sum, cats do not need blueberries to maintain health, but they are a suitable treat. If your cat develops a taste for these sweet round berries, you should feel free to share a few of them from time to time. Your cat may experience some small health benefits from the added fiber and antioxidants, but there will be little impact on overall health. The important rules are to wash the berries thoroughly and to practice moderation—feeding your cat too much fruit may upset their digestive system.
Cat Eating Blueberries Video: